Abstract

Microfluidics permits small scale economically controllable testing/analysis environments, and has been leveraged in biochemistry and the life sciences to access previously unavailable efficiencies, most notably in DNA sequencing, protein analysis, and soft material (e.g. tissues, emulsions) synthesis. Recently, these techniques have been applied to petroleum science and the results show promise. Methods have been reported in the literature for studying CO2 diffusion, investigating reservoir fluid phase behaviour, and asphaltene content measurement. These methods drastically reduce sample volume (from litres to nanolitres) and measurement time (from several hours or days to 30 minutes or less) requirements, while maintaining or increasing accuracy offered by traditional methods. In the present study, we used microfluidics to simulate the situation where emulsions form in the SAGD process in two situations; pure steam injection and steam + additives injection. Emulsions were generated in pore-scale geometries (~ 100 µm) without and with an alkaline additive. It was found that alkaline solutions produced finer emulsions (by up to nn%). A weak dependence of mean emulsion diameter on additive concentration was also observed. In addition to informing improvements to EOR, the platform may be adapted for use in studying emulsions formed during oil and gas processing as well (e.g. in valves, pumps).

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